This Week in the History of the Irish: September 21 - September 27

Michael Corcoran left his imprint on his Legion, which continued to carry his name after his death in December 1863.

DOMHNAIGH -- On Sept. 21, 1827, Michael Corcoran (right), a brigadier general in the Federal Army during America's Civil War, was born in Carrowkeel, County Sligo. Corcoran served as a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary but resigned during the Great Hunger, no longer able to condone the repressive actions of that police force against the starving Irish. He emigrated to New York and found work in the city's employ while also joining the 69th New York State Militia as a private. He rose through the ranks to colonel commanding the regiment and won the hearts of the city's Irish population when he refused to parade the 69th for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The state intended to court-martial him for this but the start of the Civil War led officials to dismiss the charges, and Corcoran led the regiment to Washington. At the Battle of 1st Bull Run, Corcoran was wounded and captured and spent the next 13 months in various Confederate prisons before he was finally exchanged. His health would never recover from that time in Southern prison camps. Promoted to brigadier general on his return, he recruited a brigade of volunteers from Irish enclaves in New York state that became known as Corcoran's Legion. He led the legion and then a division during the Suffolk (Virginia) campaign in April 1863. While there he was involved with a regrettable incident. While riding with fellow Fenian leader John O'Mahoney, Corcoran shot and killed Lt. Col. Edgar Kimball of the 9th New York Infantry. Corcoran was ordered to face a court-martial in the case, but it was never convened. On December 22, 1863, Corcoran was riding with Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher and others when he suddenly fell from his horse and died shortly afterwards. Many articles on Corcoran say he was killed when his horse fell on him, but recent research points toward a stroke as the most likely cause of death. On December 27, he was interred at Calvary Cemetery in the borough of Queens, today within New York City.

DOMHNAIGH -- On Sept. 21, 1881, revolutionary Éamonn Ceannt (Kent) (left) was born in Glenamaddy, County Galway. He was educated at University College, Dublin, and worked on the clerical staff of the Dublin city council. Éamonn joined the Gaelic League in 1900 and later taught classes in Irish. Ceannt was a pipe player, once playing the uileann pipes for the Pope in Rome. He was said to love the language, music and dance of his native country and to have an unshakeable commitment to Irish freedom. Ceannt joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1908. He was also one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and was elected to its Provisional Committee. The day before the Easter Rising in 1916, Ceannt was one of the seven signatories to the Proclamation, in effect, signing their death warrants. During the Rising, he commanded the area of the South Dublin Union. The plan called for him to hold the area with 1,000 men; he had only 130, but his small command, especially Cathal Brugha, resisted the British until Patrick Pearse surrendered the entire rebel force. Like the other leaders of the Rising, Éamonn Ceannt faced the kangaroo court that condemned him with his head held high. On May 7, he wrote his wife a note, telling her, "I shall die, like a man for Ireland's sake." On May 8, he was put up against a wall in Kilmainham Jail and shot.

From "History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798," published in 1799
The battle of Ballinamuck, after which Bartholomew Teeling was captured.

CÉADAOIN -- On September 24, 1798, United Irishman Bartholomew Teeling was executed in Dublin. Teeling was the son of wealthy linen merchant in Lisburn, County Antrim. His father was involved in both the Defender and United Irish movement and Bartholomew and his brother joined him in the Defenders while still teen-agers. Bartholomew traveled to France with Theobald Wolfe Tone in 1796, when he was only 26. In August 1798, Teeling, along with Wolfe Tone's brother, Matthew, accompanied French General Joseph Humbert's landing in County Mayo. Teeling performed admirably as an aide-de-camp to Humbert during the actions in Ireland. At the battle of Carricknagat, outside Collooney, on September 5, Teeling helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the Franco-Irish by riding directly up to a British cannon whose gunner had been doing terrible damage to them and killing him with his pistol. As he dashed back though a hail of musket balls he was given a hero's welcome by the Franco-Irish soldiers, who soon after routed the British. Three days later, when Cornwallis and Lake finally cornered Humbert's outnumbered army at Ballinamuck, Teeling managed to escape briefly, trying to avoid the death sentence he must have surely known awaited him. He was captured shortly afterward, however, and was hanged at Arbour Hill barracks, along with Matthew Tone. Today a street in Sligo town bears Teeling's name, and in 1898 a statue of Teeling was erected at Carricknagat.

Thomas Ashe

DEARDAOIN -- On Sept. 25, 1917, republican leader Thomas Ashe died on hunger strike. Trained as a teacher, Ashe was the principal of the Corduff National School, in Lusk, County Dublin, from 1908-16. A member of the Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers, Ashe raised funds for the cause in American in 1914. Fifty men under his command captured a police barracks north of Dublin, most notably with a victory over superior forces at Ashbourne, County Meath. His was one of the few successful actions by the Volunteers during the '16 Rising. Sentenced to life in prison for that action, he was released in June 1917 and went to work organizing for Sinn Fein. Ashe was arrested in August and convicted of inciting the civil population. On September 20 he organized a hunger strike among Sinn Fein prisoners. Five days later prison authorities attempted to force-feed him and he sustained injuries that resulted in his death. Ashe's cruel death created another martyr for Ireland's freedom and another monument to British misrule. A branch of Ashe's family would produce a famous cousin here in the United States -- actor Gregory Peck.

SATHAIRN -- On Sept. 27, 1847, Civil War veteran and middleweight champion 'Professor' Mike Donovan was born in Chicago to Irish-born parents. The first of many memorable events in Donovan's life came when he fought for the Union Army, serving in Sherman's army in its march through Georgia. After the war, Mike began a boxing career that would associate him with some of the best-known people of his age -- in and out of the ring. In 1868, he defeated John Shaunessy in a bout refereed by famous Western lawman Wyatt Earp. Donovan won the middleweight title in 1887 in San Francisco. Donovan was in the ring with the most famous Irish boxing champion in history, John L. Sullivan, fighting two four-round fights with him in 1880 and 1881. After his boxing career ended, he worked with several famous Irish fighters. He was in Jake Kilrain's corner when he lost to John L. Sullivan in the last bare-knuckle heavyweight championship fight, and he also helped James Corbett when he defeated Sullivan for the title in 1892. Donovan had a fan in the White House -- Teddy Roosevelt loved boxing and sparred with Donovan several times. He earned the sobriquet 'Professor' for his scientific approach to his own career and in his later teaching of the sport. The 'Professor' left a legacy, as well. His son Arthur was a famous boxing referee in the 1930s and '40s and is enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame along with the 'Professor,' the only father-son combination so honored. His grandson, also Art, played for the Baltimore Colts in the National Football League; he is enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio. You can learn more about Mike Donovan and many other Irish fighters from the early days of boxing at the International Boxing Hall of Fame Web site.

SATHAIRN-- On Sept. 27, 1725 Patrick Darcy, scientist and soldier in the Irish Brigade of France was born in Kitulla, Co. Galway. Like many Catholics before and after him during the years of the Penal Laws, Patrick was sent to France to be educated. He studied under the French mathematician Clairaut. Perhaps seeking more adventure than an academic life could provide, he enlisted in the army. He fought in Germany in the regiment of Condé, and served as an aide-de-camp to Marshal Saxe at the battle of Fontenoy. He sailed for Scotland in 1745, attempting to fight in "Bonnie" Prince Charlie's rising, but his ship was captured and he was taken prisoner. Shortly he was released and returned France where he continued both his scientific and military careers. He published several scientific papers, including an "Essay on Artillery" in 1760, and was named to the French Academy of Science. He served with Fitzjames' cavalry regiment of the Irish Brigade in the "Seven Years War" with the rank of colonel. Following the war he concentrated on his scientific studies, contributing more papers to the French Academy of Science. This work earned him great respect within the French scientific community. He received the title of Count was admitted to many exclusive royal court circles. He died of cholera in Paris on October 18, 1779


'... let him rest in the soil that is sacred to liberty, under the starry arch of the Republic he so nobly served, and within sight of that city which honored him when dead as she honored him when living, and where his name will never sound strange …  -- From Thomas Francis Meagher's oration in honor of Michael Corcoran at a memorial service for him in Manhattan, January 22, 1864

National Library of Ireland
Éamonn Ceannt

'To my dear poor little son, Ronan, from his father who is on the point of dying tomorrow for Ireland. Goodbye, E.K.
P.S. Take good care of your dear mother. May God help the two of you and may He give you both long life and happineess. God free Ireland.'  
-- Éamonn Ceannt (Kent) in a note to his son the night before his execution, May 7, 1916

'Fellow-citizens, I leave you with the heartfelt satisfaction of having kept my oath as a United Irishman, and also with the glorious prospect of the success of the cause in which we have been engaged. Persevere, my beloved countrymen. Your cause is the cause of Truth. It must and will ultimately triumph.'
         -- From Bartholomew Teeling's gallow's statement, which he was not allowed to read.

'Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian.'
         -- Michael Collins in his oration at the graveside of Thomas Ashe, September 1917



September -- Meán Fomhair

21, 1827 - Michael Corcoran (Union General - Co. Donegal)
21, 1881 - Èamonn Ceannt (Revolutionary - Glenamaddy, Co. Galway.)
22, 1821 - Patrick Moore (Confederate General - Kitulla, Co. Galway)
27, 1725 - Patrick Darcy (Scientist and soldier - Galway)
27, 1847 - Professor Mike Donovan (Civil War Union soldier & pro boxer)


21, 1601 - Spanish force lands at Kinsale.
21, 1795 - 'Battle of the Diamond' near Loughgall, Co Armagh, between Peep O' Day Boys and Defenders, leading to foundation of Orange Order.
21-23, 1798 - British Gen. Trench attacks the French and Irish left behind by Humbert to hold Killala. About 300 Irish rebels are killed, some while trying to surrender.
22, 1587 – Red Hugh O’Donnell is kidnapped on a ship at Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.
22, 1690 – Cork surrenders to the Duke of Marlborough’s Williamite army.
22, 1864 - Col. James Mulligan, who commanded the western Irish Brigade, dies of wounds sustained at the 3rd Battle of Winchester three days earlier.
22, 1920 - Mid-Clare Brigade, IRA, kill six policemen near Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare.
23, 1867 - Dick Dowling, the Irish-born Confederate hero of Sabine Pass, dies of Yellow Fever in Houston.
24, 1798 - United Irishmen Bartholomew Teeling is hung in Dublin.
24, 1892 - Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore dies in St. Louis, MO.
25, 1697 - Catholic clergy banished from Ireland by Act of Parliament.
25, 1917 - Thomas Ashe, Republican, dies on hunger strike in Mountjoy Jail.
26, 1791 - The first ship delivering Irish convicts arrives in Sydney harbor Australia.
26, 1920 - Anti-Catholic pogrom in Belfast.
27, 1662 - An "act for encouraging Protestant strangers and others to inhabit and plant in the kingdom of Ireland" passes the Irish Parliament under Charles II

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Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day


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